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Observation in the Canary Islands in 1976

A large unidentified luminous phenomenon was observed throughout the Spanish Canary Islands on the night of June 22, 1976. Newspaper headlines proclaimed the following day that "thousands of people" had seen a "spectacular luminous phenomenon" which "lasted twenty minutes and was observed from Tenerife, La Palma and La Gomera." The most sensational aspect was the experience of a medical doctor and his taxi driver, who reported a transparent sphere with two tall entities inside.

Canary Islands

Photograph of large luminous phenomenon seen over the Canary Islands in June 1976. From the declassified file of the Spanish Air Force. Source Antonio Huneeus.

The official document:

The publication:

On June 25, 1976, the Commanding General of the Canaries' Air Zone named an "Investigative Adjutant" to investigate the case. Copies of some of the depositions, though technically confidential, were given by a Spanish Air Force General to journalist J.J. Benitez in October 1976, who subsequently published them in his book:

Benítez, J.J., OVNIS: Documentos Oficiales del Gobierno Español, Barcelona, Plaza & Janes, 1977.

The content:

The complete Air Force file on the case, comprising over 100 pages of questionnaires, evaluation, appendices, illustrations, etc., was officially declassified in June 1994, as part of the ongoing public release of the Spanish Air Force UFO files which began in 1992.

The Air Force file contains depositions with fourteen witnesses. In a previously established methodology, it divides observers into four categories according to their reliability: from high credibility rating (pilots, aeronautical engineers, astronomers) all the way to a very unreliable rating (those who were illiterate, mentally impaired or under the influence of alcohol or drugs). Likewise, each observation is also divided into four levels, according to the number and quality of additional witnesses, radar evidence, etc. The dossier also included a color photograph of the phenomenon, taken by a tourist and obtained with the assistance of the Civil Guard; according to the photo lab where the film was developed, "no trickery or modification of any kind was added."

The Investigative Adjutant reconstructed the sequence of events in his final report. The first observation was made at 21:27 hrs. on June 22, 1976 by the entire crew of the corvette Atrevida of the Spanish Navy, which was located 3 nm (3.5 statute miles or 5.5 km.) off Punta Lantailla on the coast of Fuerteventura Island. The ship's captain provided a detailed description of the event:

"At 21:27 (Z) hrs. on 22 June, we saw an intense yellowish-bluish light moving out from the shore towards our position. At first we thought it was an aircraft with its landing lights on. Then, when the light had attained a certain elevation (15 - 18 degrees), it became stationary. The original light went out and a luminous beam from it began to rotate. It remained like this for approximately two minutes. Then an intense great halo of yellowish and bluish light developed, and remained in the same position for 40 minutes, even though the original phenomenon was no longer visible.

"Two minutes after the great halo, the light split into two parts, the smaller part being beneath, in the center of the luminous halo, where a blue cloud appeared and the part from which the bluish nucleus had come, vanished. The upper part began to climb in a spiral, rapid and irregular, and finally vanished. None of these movements affected the initial circular halo in any way, which remained just the same the whole time, its glow lighting up parts of the land and the ocean, from which we could deduce that the phenomenon was not very far away from us, but was close."

The file also includes the deposition of a lieutenant, the Atrevida's first officer, and indicates "the phenomenon was initially observed by the entire crew" of the Navy warship. The report adds that no echo was detected on the ship's surface radar. Three minutes later, at 21:30 hrs., a very similar phenomenon was observed by many people in the Grand Canary Island. The majority of the witnesses interviewed by the Air Force were from the villages of Galdar, Las Rosas and Agaete. They were from different professions: medical doctor, school teacher, farmer, sergeant, two taxi drivers, police guard and laborers. Newspapers and UFO investigators located additional witnesses in the islands.

The Investigative Adjutant determined that there was no aerial traffic or military exercises at the time that could account for the phenomenon. The observation itself was divided into two categories: the large luminous halo in the sky, seen by many people; and the smaller luminous globe with two figures inside, observed by a doctor, a taxi driver and one woman. The Adjutant had no problem accepting the reality of the first event. Noting that it was vouched for officially by the crew of the Atrevida, he added:

"Then, numerous witnesses belonging to different positions and cultural strata, saw it with similar characteristics in the Grand Canary island. Therefore, the fact that a very strange and peculiar aerial phenomenon occurred on the night of 22 June is a true and proven fact, as incredible as its behavior and conditions may seem."

The Adjutant considered four possible explanations - aircraft, missile test, aurora, and meteor fall - only to reject each hypothesis, one at a time. The report also considered and rejected other explanations such as weather balloons and meteorological phenomena, admitting that "its nature is totally unknown."

The Investigative Adjutant, however, had more problems accepting the reality of the CE-III (Close Encounter of the Third Kind) described by some of the witnesses. Not because he questioned their veracity or suspected them of hoaxing, but simply because of the nature of the report. The CE-III's main witness was a physician from the town of Guía, Dr. Francisco Padrón León. His deposition is the longest in the file. The Air Force had also checked his background and psychological condition. Dr. Padrón explained that he had been called to attend a patient and was riding in a taxi to see her in the town of Las Rosas:

"We were talking about hunting... as we entered the last part of the road, the car lights pointed at a slightly luminous sphere that was stationary and very close to the ground, although I can't say for sure if it was touching it; it was made of a totally transparent and crystalline-like material, since it was possible to see through it the stars in the sky; it had an electric blue color but tenuous, without dazzling; it had a radius of about 30 m. [100 ft.], and in the lower third of the sphere you could see a platform of aluminum-like color as if made of metal, and three large consoles. At each side of the center there were two huge figures of 2.50 to 3 m. [8.5 to 10 ft.] tall, but no taller than 3 m. [10 ft.], dressed entirely in red and facing each other in such a way that I always saw their profile." (see diagram 2)

They were humanoid in shape with the head proportionate to the thorax and wearing some kind of head gear. Dr. Padrón asked the taxi driver if he was seeing the same thing, and he exclaimed, "My God! What is that?" As the car reached the patient's house, the doctor noted:

"Then I observed that some kind of bluish smoke was coming out from a semi-transparent central tube in the sphere, covering the periphery of the sphere's interior without leaking outside at any moment. Then the sphere began to grow and grow until it became huge like a 20-story house, but the platform and the crew remained the same size; it rose slowly and majestically and it seems I heard a very tenuous whistling."

Dr. Padrón entered the house and alerted the residents, who went outside and saw:

"The sphere, now high, was moving slowly toward Tenerife; suddenly it reached enormous speed like none I ever saw in an airplane; the sphere dissolved into a bluish spindle-shape with red underneath; a brilliant white halo was formed close to the object, which bit by bit was forming another very brilliant blue halo. It disappeared in the direction of Tenerife."

Dr. Padrón's testimony was confirmed by the taxi driver, who also saw "a craft that looked as if it was made of transparent crystal," about 25 m. (85 ft.) high and 20 m. (65 ft.) wide, with "two persons dressed in brilliant red inside." In addition, there was a third witness, an illiterate woman who was a relative of the doctor's patient. She was watching TV when the screen went blank and the dogs began to bark. She ran to the window in time to:

"... see the doctor's car and just above it the great blue ball... It was like a perfectly round globe, but very big, transparent, the stars could be seen through it. She saw two man-like figures inside, but she is not completely sure as she panicked, closed the windows and doors of the house and began to pray."

Diagram 1: The transparent sphere with two tall occupants seen by a medical doctor and two other witnesses. From the declassified file of the Spanish Air Force. Source Antonio Hunneus.

Diagram 1

Diagram 2: Diagram of the phenomenon seen by the crew of the Spanish Navy corvette Atrevida.

Diagram 2

Because of the strange nature of the CE-III, the Investigative Adjutant had reservations accepting it. He remarked that:

"We should forcefully consider the VERY PROBABLE [sic] circumstance that both witnesses, facing the presence of an unusual phenomenon in the sky, narrated what their 'minds' made them see, mutually influencing each other. This Investigative Adjutant doesn't have the slightest doubt about their seriousness and sincerity. They told what they unquestionably 'believed' to have seen."

The Adjutant's final conclusion, however, was that what the crew of the corvette Atrevida and many other witnesses observed in the sky on the night on June 22, was indeed an "Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon." It is important to note that this incident was neither the first nor the last UFO report investigated officially in the Canary Islands. On November 19, 1976, the Commanding General of the Canaries' Air Zone, Gen. Carlos Dols de Espejo, and his aides observed first-hand another large halo while flying on an Air Force T-12 transport plane. The crew of a Spanish Navy training ship and the personnel at the Gando Air Base also reported the phenomenon. The Investigative Adjutant in that case concluded his report:

"If we study as a whole the three reports issued up to the present (1/75, 1/76, and 2/76), we should have to think seriously of the necessity of considering the possibility of accepting the hypothesis that a craft of unknown origin, propelled by an equally unknown energy, is moving freely over the skies in the Canaries."


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This page was last updated on March 1, 2004.